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Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 62 (2013) 13

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Journal of Asian Earth Sciences

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Introduction to special issue: Geology of the Lake Baikal region

The region around Lake Baikal (Fig. 1) is an outstanding natural

laboratory for studying geological processes of the Earths crust
and deep lithosphere which have been occurring over the past
3.5 Ga. Fields of research include petrology, geochemistry, tectonics, sedimentology, seismology, surface and deep water environments with their potential applications relative to water and
mineral resources and to hazard mitigation.
International geologic investigations in the Baikal area date
back to the 1970s (Logatchev and Florensov, 1978, and references
therein). However, a lot of very exciting and unexpected results
have been obtained only recently.
Early Precambrian rocks of the Siberian craton are widely exposed owing to Mesozoic and Cenozoic tectonics along the northwestern shore of Lake Baikal and the Major Sayan Fault (Fig. 1). The
most ancient magmatic zircons of the area were dated as old as
3.4 Ga (Poller et al., 2005; Bibikova et al., 2006). Since that time
the Siberian craton has experienced multiple stages of development with a prominent crust-forming event at 1.8 Ga (Gladkochub
et al., 2006, 2009). During a significant portion of the Precambrian
the Siberian craton belonged to Proterozoic supercontinents
including Rodinia, which broke up completely by about 0.65 Ga
(e.g., Li et al. 2008).
The post-Rodinia formation of the Central Asian orogenic belt,
which consists of numerous terranes of various ages including
microcontinents, oceanic plateaus, paleo-island arcs and related
complexes presents many intriguing questions. Prior to the accretion of these terranes to the Siberian craton, the terranes belonged
to the Paleo-Asian Ocean (Dobretsov and Buslov, 2007; Windley
et al., 2007). After the Paleo-Asian Ocean closed, the evolution of
the Lake Baikal region was controlled by processes related to the
so-called MongoliaOkhotsk Ocean development. The remnants
of this paleo-ocean survived only along the narrow Mongolia
Okhtosk suture zone (Fig. 1). The MongoliaOkhotsk Ocean was a
large-scale embayment of the Paleo-Pacific Ocean, and was closed
completely in the study area by the Early Jurassic (Zorin, 1999). Later on, the Lake Baikal region experienced a number of rifting
events in Mesozoic and Cenozoic time. Mesozoic extension was
responsible for granitoid magmatism and related bimodal volcanism (Vorontsov et al., 2002; Jahn et al., 2009; Andryushchenko,
2010; Andryushchenko et al., 2010) plus exhumation of numerous
Metamorphic Core Complexes adjacent to Lake Baikal in the Transbaikalian area (Donskaya et al., 2008). Although this region developed in a continental setting, the volcanic rocks of Late Jurassic age
exhibit subduction-type trace element features such as negative
Nb and Ta anomalies (with respect to La) (Fig. 2). Such geochemical

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features completely disappear in the volcanic rocks of Cretaceous

time (Fig. 2).
An additional focus of study in the Lake Baikal region is the variety of ore deposit types. These deposits have been produced
throughout the history of crustal-forming processes in the area
and are associated with many of the regional igneous and tectonic
events (e.g. Pirajno et al., 2009).
Last, but not least, is the consideration of recent geological processes. Lake Baikal is the oldest lake on Earth and contains one
quarter of its drinkable water. It occupies two large rift basins,
positioned in the central part of the Baikal rift system. The age of
the Lake Baikal is at least 8.4 million years as dated by 10Be of
the lacustrine sediments (Horiuchi et al., 2003). These sediments,
which were recovered during an international drilling project
(Kuzmin et al., 1997 and subsequent studies), provide a unique record of climatic changes in mainland Asia. The uppermost sediments contain gas hydrate horizons and although the hydrate
volume is sub-economic (Vanneste et al., 2001), Lake Baikal represents an important laboratory for gas hydrate studies in a freshwater environment.
A modern seismic refraction study suggests that the Moho beneath the rift is not significantly thinned as was predicted. New
observations (Nielsen and Thybo, 2009) suggest that thinning associated with extension is compensated by injection of mafic melts
into the lower crust. Such a process leads to the paradoxical result
that the central part of the rift system, which is occupied by Lake
Baikal, is extensively intruded at deep levels but completely free
of Late Cenozoic eruptions (Fig. 1), whereas the southwestern part
of the rift system is characterized by rather voluminous Late Cenozoic lava outcropping at the surface, but no lower crustal mafic
intrusions have been recognized. It has been debated whether
the volcanism was sourced in deep or shallow mantle and thus
respectively caused by plume or lithospheric extension (Rasskazov
et al., 2002; Yarmolyuk et al., 2003; Barry et al., 2007; Ivanov et al.,
2011). Recently, a possible link between the volcanism and a remote Pacific slab was suggested (Zorin et al., 2006), extending Zhao
et al.s (2009) big mantle wedge model further inland in Central
Another reason for detailed investigations in the Baikal rift concerns understanding its earthquakes. Recent research is focused
mainly on studying strain and stress evolution and has highlighted: (1) Rupture patterns during moderate-size events recorded by instruments (Radziminovitch et al., 2006) (2)
Historical records of large events (Delouis et al., 2002), and (3)
Stress loading occurring in the interseismic periods (Sankov
et al., 2004). Many questions remain under debate, such as the

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Preface / Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 62 (2013) 13

Fig. 1. Schematic map of major geological structures in Lake Baikal region, which is arbitrary defined here as region bounded by the MongoliaOkhotsk suture zone in the
south, by Tuva-Mongolian massif in the west, Siberian Traps in the north and Chara rift basin in the east. The map is compiled from (Zorin, 1999) and Russian geological maps.

The aim of this volume is to introduce the international community to the very exciting geology, tectonics and geodynamics
of this unique part of the Earth.

Fig. 2. Primitive mantle (McDonough and Sun, 1995) normalized trace element
diagram for Mesozoic and Cenozoic volcanic rocks in Dzhida area of the Lake Baikal
region. Data are after Vorontsov et al. (2002), Gordienko et al. (2006), Barry et al.
(2007), Andryushchenko (2010) and Andryushchenko et al. (2010) except Pb
concentrations for Quaternary rocks, which are previously unpublished data.

scale, state of stress, heterogeneities, and interactions of faults in

the Baikal rift, the strain and stress distribution through space
and time, plus the forces responsible for the opening of the rift
(Sankov et al., 2009).

Andryushchenko, S.V., 2010. Geology and geochemistry of Late Mesozoic magmatic

associations of Khambinsky volcano-tectonic structure (Western Transbaikalia).
Cand.-Sci. thesis. A.P. Vinogradovs Institute of Geochemistry, Siberian Branch,
Russian Academy of Sciences (in Russian).
Andryushchenko, S.V., Vorontsov, A.A., Yarmolyuk, V.V., Sandimirov, I.V., 2010.
Evolution of Jurassic-Cretaceous magmatism in the Khambin volcanotectonic
complex (western Transbaikalia). Russian Geology and Geophysics 51, 734
Barry, T.L., Ivanov, A.V., Rasskazov, S.V., Demonterova, E.I., Dunai, T.J., Davies, G.R.,
Harrison, D., 2007. Helium isotopes provide no evidence for deep mantle
involvement in widespread Cenozoic volcanism across Central Asia. Lithos 95,
Bibikova, E.V., Turkina, O.M., Kirnozova, T.I., Fugzan, M.M., 2006. Ancient
plagiogneisses of the Onot Block of the Sharyzhalgai Metamorphic Massif:
isotopic geochronology. Geochemistry International 44, 310322.
Delouis, B., Dverchre, J., Melnikova, V.I., Radziminovitch, N.V., Loncke, L.,
Larroque, C., Ritz, J.F., Sankov, V.A., 2002. A reappraisal of the 1950 (Mw 6.9)
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Donskaya, T.V., Windley, B.F., Mazukabzov, A.M., Krner, A., Sklyarov, E.V.,
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Gordienko, I.V., Ivanov, A.V., Klimuk, V.S., 2006. Field guide of Dzhida excursion for
participants of the 3d Russian Symposium on volcanology and paleovolcanology
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Horiuchi, K., Matsuzaki, H., Kobayashi, K., Goldberg, E.L., Shibata, Y., 2003. Be-10
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Ivanov, A.V., Arzhannikov, S.G., Demonterova, E.I., Arzhannikova, A.V., Orlova, L.A.,
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structure, style of eruptions, magma compositions, and radiocarbon dating.
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Guest editors
Alexei V. Ivanov
Dmitry P. Gladkochub
Institute of the Earths Crust,
Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences,
Irkutsk, Russia
Jacques Dverchre
Universit de Brest (UBO),
CNRS UMR 6538 Domaines Ocaniques,
Institut Universitaire Europen de la
Mer (OSU-IUEM), Brest, France
Richard E. Ernst
Department of Earth Sciences,
Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
Ernst Geosciences, 43 Margrave Ave.,
Ottawa, Canada